OxNet NE/Ordered Universe Virtual Easter School 2020: On the Sphere

Welcome to the OxNet North East/Ordered Universe Easter School in Virtual Form. This mode of delivery will allow you read the materials provided, listen to the lectures and talks, and to reflect on the information and interpretations, and then to produce a report. The school is organised around the third treatise by Robert Grosseteste, On the Sphere, written, probably, between 1215 and 1221, which explores astronomy and geography. The treatise reflects on why astronomy is important, how the world we live in fits into the universe, astronomical phenomena such as eclipses, and the habitability of the earth. The school will be led by Giles Gasper (Durham University) and Claire Ungley (Southmoor Academy) and students from Durham University.

Course: the Easter School will run online, and will have formal contact in the week commencing formally across five days and will focus on the following areas:

A Guide to the Medieval Universe: An introduction to medieval cosmology, from the Oxford Cabinet (an online exhibition), and guidebook Medieval Science and the Body, compiled by Sarah Griffin; general reading list.On the Sphere: a translation of the treatise in modern English and Simulated Interactive Model of the Medieval UniverseEarth to Cosmos: Grosseteteste’sVision: The treatise – On the Sphere – in English translation, with short talks to guide you through particular aspects of the treatise: 

  • Historical Context – Giles GasperWhat is On the Sphere about? – Sigbjørn SønnesynTrepidation – Tom McLeishThe Moon Illusion – Rebekah WhiteLearning about Astronomy through Illustrations – Laura Cleaver

Expanding Horizons

  • Two longer lectures on modern understanding of the universe by Tom McLeish and Richard Bower, with comparison to Grosseteste’s understanding, and the treatise On Light.Two talks on broader aspects of medieval culture, related to different ways of understanding natural phenomena, production of manuscripts: Colour and Alchemy. 

Visualisations: three different ways to think about the medieval cosmos, and On the Sphere through film, and modern art – Ordered Universe partners The Projection Studio: Ross Ashton, Karen Monid, and Alexandra Carr.

All of these areas are to be found in different pages of this website – so return to the main menu under Schools and the Easter School and pages will appear on the right. They will be password-protected, and we’ll let you have the codes so that you can start to explore the material.

Assessment: The Guidebook in Section 1, Medieval Science and the Body, contains 5 questions at the back. The first part of your assessment will be to write 200 words in response to each of the questions; 1000 in total.
The second part of the assessment is a more reflective report of 1000 words on one of the following questions:

  • How does the medieval view of the world as found in On the Sphere differ from the modern?
  • How does the medieval universe work?
  • What would Grosseteste make of modern understanding of the universe?

The assessments will be submitted at the end of the course, and marked by course tutors.

We will have two prizes for the best final assessments and two commendations. All four of these assessments will be published on the Ordered Universe and OxNet websites.

Timetable of Meetings

Monday 29th March: welcome session 10am – Zoom (to be circulated by Claire)
Wednesday 31st March: catch-up meeting 10am – Zoom (to be circulated by Claire)
Friday 2nd April: final session 10 am – Zoom (to be circulated by Claire)

We hope that you enjoy the course – it is designed to make you think widely and deeply; as well as the resources available here use the seminar course handbook, and the are many other resources the general Ordered Universe website: podcasts, short pieces for magazines, our searchable blog, and so on.  If there any questions please let us know!

Oxnet: is an Access initiative run collaboratively between participating colleges at the University of Oxford, led by Pembroke College, other HE institutions across the United Kingdom, and secondary schools acting as ‘hubs’ in London, the North West and the North East of England. It is unapologetically academic in its focus and has had significant impact in the local communities in which it has worked since 2008.

We are enormously grateful for the support of all of the contributors to the school: Claire Ungley (Southmoor Academy – OxNet hub co-ordinator); Dr Peter Claus (Pembroke College, University of Oxford – OxNet Founder); Felix Slade (Pembroke College, University of Oxford – OxNet co-ordinator); Professor Tom McLeish (University of York – Physics & Medieval Studies); Professor Giles Gasper (Durham University – Medieval History); Dr Sarah Griffin (Winchester College – Medieval Art History); Dr Laura Cleaver (SAS London – Medieval Art History); Christian Walker (Durham University – Medieval History); Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (University of Oslo – Medieval History); Dr Ana Dias (Durham University – Medieval History), and Dr Rebekah White (University of Oxford – Experimental Psychology). Also for institutional support from Durham University, OxNet, Pembroke College, University of Oxford, Southmoor Academy, and all of the contributing schools.